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Attendance policy didn’t need adjusting

Griffiths v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The duty to make reasonable adjustments engages once an employer knows (or should reasonably be expected to know) that an employee is disabled. But as this case has shown, there are limits on what an employer will be expected to do.

Ms Griffiths was disabled. Her 66 days of absence (62 of which were because of her disability) triggered a written warning under her employer’s attendance policy. She claimed disability discrimination. Her view was that the DWP ought to have held off from issuing the warning. Its procedure should have been modified to allow her more days off work than a non-disabled person, and periods of sickness absence related to her disability should have been disregarded. These would have been reasonable adjustments, she argued.

The Court of Appeal said no. The employer’s provision, criterion or practice (the requirement to work at a certain level to avoid getting warnings and possibly being dismissed) didn’t put Ms Griffiths at a substantial disadvantage. The same sanctions applied to her non-disabled colleagues. On the facts of this case, it wasn’t reasonable to expect the employer to alter its policy.

The same outcome may not apply in other cases; it really does come down to the specifics of each situation. The Court of Appeal confirmed that the duty to make reasonable adjustments can apply to sanctions under an absence management policy, even where that policy treats disabled and non-disabled employees equally.